Recently I watched again the last part of the Trilogy Lord of the Rings. It is hard to believe it was released in 2003 – but at least I do not need to worry about any spoilers! All of the films, like the book, have an underlying theme of friendship, which I have written about elsewhere in my blog. What struck me this time however was something very different.
In this last film, there is a great deal about letting go, which I had not noticed before, despite watching it numerous times. Sam, having rescued Frodo from the goblin tower, is able to give him back the ring, which he had taken from the then comatose Frodo thinking he was dead. Unlike several others, Sam can let the ring go, because it simply does not have the same hold on him. Neither Frodo nor Gollum can, with catastrophic results for Gollum yet ultimately bringing about the destruction of the ring and so the ending of the grip of evil on Middle Earth. I have to confess when I saw it in the cinema, as Frodo stood dangling the ring over the fire, needing to let it go, it was all I could do to stop myself from shouting out ‘Let the wretched thing go!’ – which would no doubt have irritated other cinema goers and been pointless since I knew the story. The battle with Gollum leaves Frodo in a perilous position, where he has to choose between letting go, and plunging to his death, or holding on. Sam, faithful to the end, urges him not to let go. He doesn’t, and is rescued.
As I watched, I was left reflecting how much of life is about choosing what to hold on to, and what to let go of. In friendships, sometimes we have to accept that we simply cannot maintain them, whether due to distance, change in circumstances or simply the two people involved valuing the relationship to different degrees. We may need to accept that it is changing, or even ending. Yet at other times we need to hang on, to persist through a difficult patch which will resolve.
Parenting involves a lot of letting go – from those first farewells to nursery as we entrust our adored children to the care of others, through to the complex parenting of adult children where our control is gone but our love (and worry!) is no less.
Aging is another process involving a lot of letting go – of paid employment, perhaps mobility, and the other myriad forms of loss that come in later years. It can be a painful process, but mitigated if there are some things that we can hold on to. One of the crucial things, it seems to me, is firmly grasping the fact that our value and what defines us are not principally about what we do but who we are.
For people of faith, there is often letting go, for example of habits we know are less than God’s best or patterns of thinking which damage us. Yet there is so much more to hold on to – for example wonderful promises from God’s Word such as ‘I am with you always’. And the biggest truth of all – that we need to allow to go deep in our hearts and hold on to with a firm grip - that we are His children and loved more than we can ever begin to imagine.